I became a Christian when I was 19 years old, almost 2 decades ago. I was not brought up in a Christian home. In fact, I didn't even know what a Christian was at the time. I remember while being in college, looking at the bulletin boards postings for roommates wanted. I would see listings that said, Christian seeking Christian roommates and really had a hard time understanding what this was all about.
When I received Christ as my personal Lord and Savior, it was during a trip home from school. I went to church with my grandmother one Sunday and when the pastor gave the altar call, I had to respond. I literally mean I "had" to respond, everything in my being told me to go up front. My mother, sitting on the other side of me even tried to discourage me. I don't remember a word of what that pastor said that day. It wasn't even a salvation message. But as I look back on that experience, all I can say is that the Holy Spirit was pulling at my heart big time that day.
After accepting Jesus into my life, I became a new person practically overnight. I just lost the desire to do many of the things I did that were commonplace in my past. My character changed as well. I became a much nicer and caring person. I didn't have any one telling me, you can't do this, or you must do that. The desire to be a new person came from within, from the Holy Spirit who was now living in me.
When I went back to college I was so excited about my Christian conversion. For a time being I tried to convert all my friends and just loved talking about the Lord. Back then I was much more shy than I am now; however, I'm still pretty quiet by nature, so my witnessing didn't really extend beyond my closest relationships.
One day I was in the college library looking through the book catalog when a student that I shared a class with, but hardly knew, came up to me and said, "You're different. Tell me why you're different?" Sadly, because of my own shyness and insecurities I couldn't give her an answer. I couldn't tell her it was all because of Jesus Christ. Many years later, I pray she found the answer she was looking for.
Jesus said, "They will know that we are Christians by our love." Not by our righteousness, not by our eloquence, not by our good deeds, not by our credentials, not by all the wisdom and knowledge we posses, but by our love. It hurts my heart to say, that as Christians, many times we fail in the "love" department. To the outside world, the unsaved, we are mostly known for being judgmental, critical, holier than thou, and sometimes downright mean.
Recently, I was listening to a Christian Talk Show on the National Day of Prayer and became grieved in my spirit hearing over and over "Christians" calling in and ranting and raving about being opposed to praying with non-believers. Did they forget when Elijah told the followers of Baal to pray night and day for their god to appear? When Baal didn't show up, with a solitary prayer from Elijah, God displayed his mighty power by sending fire from heaven and burning up the altar. I say, what are we afraid of?
When asked, what is greatest commandment, Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.' ALL the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Did he say ALL?
1 Corthinthains Chapter 13, the "love" chapter also makes it clear. It is letting us know that we don't win people to the Lord by our knowledge, our giving, or even our sacrifices. We win people to our side by the love and concern we have for them, and out of that concern God may prompt us to meet their needs or minister to their heart. Service void of love is worthless in God's eyes.
What was it about Jesus that caused him to have such a large following? Why did people travel miles to see him and then spend many days with him? In some passages the Bible says they may have hung around for a meal, but ultimately it was his love and caring deeds that opened the door that allowed God's truth to penetrate their hearts. They said thing like, "never have we heard a man talk like this before!" They had the teachers of the Law always telling them how to be religious, but Jesus came with something different. He came with compassion, not blame, truth and not tradition; acceptance and not criticism.
My question is, are we doing the same? Why have we as Christians turned so many people off. I can honestly say if it had not been for the Holy Spirit burning a fire in my heart that Sunday many years ago, I myself could have easily been one of those who rejected Christianity based on the attitudes of many Christians.
Love never fails. Can I repeat this, Love Never Fails! We fail when we choose to walk in righteousness, knowledge, and sacrifice without love. Love first, and then let God's love in you be a catalyst for change in those around you. We need so much more love in the Christian faith and less judgment, criticism, and preaching our cause. God is so much bigger than all of this.
Can I be honest with you? I don't have all the answers. I don't know why some people suffer so terribly while others seem to live a charmed life. I don't know why some people die even though they are believing God for healing while others walk away from a tragic accident without a scratch. Life encompasses so many mysteries. But even without knowing the answers, can we love people through their pain? Isn't that what living the Christian life is all about? Being a reflection of God's love to a hurting, dying and fallen world.
Can I challenge you today to be more loving and less right? Can you let God's light shine through you so that people notice something different about you, and you didn't even have to open your mouth? Can we tone down the lofty words and the righteous clichés and just be kind and nice? Can we see an unsaved person or someone living less than God's best and instead of judging or condemning them, send a silent prayer their way. Jesus said, they are sheep being lead to slaughter.
In closing, one day I was walking through Albertson's Grocery Store and in front of me were about 5 huge African American boys just cursing and talking like they had no training at all. My first inclination was to get angry and look at them with disdain and disrespect. But in the next moment, I began to see them with compassion, and the words of Jesus rose in my heart, "they know not what they do." They are just a product of sin and society. Their hearts have never been touched with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. Instead of becoming self-righteous, I prayed a silent prayer for their salvation. I prayed that God would send the right people across their path in a way they could receive it. I prayed that they would be loved into the kingdom of God, right where they are.
Those who are strong must bear the infirmities of the weak. Can we do more bearing? Can we help to move someone in the right direction without scolding them or putting them down? Can we use soft answers or responses that will stomp out strive or wraft? We'll win a lot more bees with honey. Can they know we are Christians just by our love, nothing more, nothing less? I challenge you today!
Rhonda Jones is the creator of over 25 Christian meditation and affirmation Cds and the author of the Christian makeover program, Help Me God Change My Life and A Date with God. Learn more at http://www.thechristianmeditator.com and http://www.holyandhealthyliving.com.
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